House passes sixth '15 appropriations bill

The House late Thursday evening passed its sixth fiscal 2015 appropriations bill, to fund the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Passage of the $34 billion measure, 253-170, marks the halfway point in the House's consideration of fiscal 2015 appropriations.

ADVERTISEMENT
Meanwhile, the Senate has not passed any appropriations bills for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 due to a disagreement over amendments. A stopgap funding measure, also known as a continuing resolution, appears likely to keep the government running and avoid a shutdown through the midterm elections. 

Nonetheless, the House is poised to consider more appropriations this month. Next week, the House will debate the Financial Services measure funding the Internal Revenue Service, federal payments for the District of Columbia and Wall Street enforcement agencies.

Asked by The Hill on Thursday if the House would consider more appropriations bills after Financial Services, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said only, "We'll see."

The House has passed five other fiscal 2015 appropriations bills: Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Defense.

The legislation's spending allocation is $50.5 million less than the current level, but $326.9 million more than the administration's request.

The White House issued a veto threat against the Energy-Water measure due to controversial provisions that limit environmental regulations. 

One provision would prohibit the Corps from working on a modification to a 2008 regulation defining "fill material," which is the waste left over from mining operations like mountain top removal. Another controversial rider would block the Corps from working on a rule with the Environmental Protection Agency to clarify its jurisdictional authority over streams and wetlands in the U.S. 

House Republicans pushed for the riders to limit what they viewed as executive overreach.

"The legislation ... puts the brakes on the administration's destructive and misguided regulatory agenda that threatens our nation's small businesses and other industries," Rogers said during floor debate.

But Democrats warned that obstructing regulatory efforts would threaten public health.

"By preemptively stopping any efforts to update the definition of fill materials, this bill ensures that communities in coal country will continue to live with public health threats and the environmental consequences of mountaintop removal mining," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

As with other appropriations bills, the Energy-Water measure was considered under an open rule that allows members to offer an unlimited number of amendments.

Earlier Thursday, the House rejected efforts to abandon development of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Nevada lawmakers tried to convince colleagues to abandon the building of a nuclear waste facility in their state. But other members said that it would be wasteful to completely do away with the potential facility after the federal government has already invested millions of taxpayer dollars into studying a Yucca Mountain repository.

Additionally, the House rebuffed an amendment to eliminate funding for Department of Energy programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Laura Barron-Lopez contributed.